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District 58 Student Scientists Share Findings at Annual Science Fair

Students showed off a variety of projects during the district's 32nd annual science fair on Jan. 19.

You and your partner have worked hard on your science fair project. You’ve formulated your hypothesis, collected and analyzed data and reached a conclusion, and shared your procedure and findings on a creatively designed display board. However, your partner is unable to attend the science fair to co-present to the judges. What do you do?

If you’re in District 58, it’s no problem at all. You get some help signing onto O’Neill Middle School’s pilot Bring Your Own Device network, and use the Facetime video-chat program to “bring” your partner to the science fair. Through this setup, two District 58 students were able to co-present to the judges and field questions together at the district’s science fair Jan. 19.

“This is a perfect example of how technology is redefining learning,” said Technology Director Scott Meech. “We need to empower our students to work collaboratively, and this was a wonderful opportunity.”

The “virtual” co-presentation was just one of many positive experiences enjoyed by the more than 350 first- through eighth-grade District 58 scientists who participated in the 32nd annual science fair on Jan. 19.

The hallways and gymnasiums were packed with students eagerly answering questions and discussing their experiments with the judges, which included high school students, parents, staff members, professional scientists and representatives from Downers Grove Friends of the Gifted (FRoG), which co-sponsors the fair. More than 75 District 58 staff members assisted with this year’s science fair, including serving as project judges.

First-and second-grade projects are displayed non-competitively, while third- through eighth-graders could decide whether to enter the fair competitively or non-competitively. Students got to choose their own projects, and could work individually or with a partner. Students produced a display board and a written report for their projects, as well as a verbal presentation for the judges. These included all aspects of the scientific method: problem, hypothesis, materials, procedure, observation, and conclusion. 

The well-researched answers to hundreds of creative questions were on display.

Hillcrest students Lucy Nevrly and Merit Allendorfer’s experiment researched whether dogs have a dominant paw, by placing treats under the couch and logging which paw the dog used to try to retrieve it. They found that three of five dogs favored their left paw in all 10 trials.

Lester sixth-grader Carson Burek used daphnia, a type of water flea, to monitor water toxicity. He collected sediment from the parking lot at an auto repair shop, his home, and the parking lot at his school. The water in all of these jars killed approximately half of the daphnia population, while the majority in the control jar of pure water stayed alive. His brother, Logan, a fifth-grader, took on a similar question. He studied how acid rain affects aquatic life, creating the acidic conditions by adding vinegar.

Fairmount student Nicole Grganto examined the impact on blood pressure of different genres of music.

“The heavy metal music increased the blood pressure of the sixth-grade girls, while the classical music lowered it,” she said.

Highland sixth-graders Melissa Manzo and Audrey Gusel’s project took a psychological bent.

Using a website that generates photos of individuals presenting a real or a fake smile, which they also had uploaded for judges and visitors to view on a Kindle at their statio, they looked at whether a pessimist or an optimist would be better able to spot the difference between the two. They asked 43 friends and family members to indicate whether they considered themselves an optimist or a pessimist, then asked them to judge 20 smiles. They had hypothesized that the pessimist would be better able to spot the fake smiles because they might be less trusting, but the optimists ended up faring better. Manzo and Gusel thought that might be because there were more participants who identified themselves as optimists, but also that optimists may be better judges of whether a smile is real or fake because they do more smiling themselves.

Fairmount student Annika Heiling studied whether mnemonics could help boost the memories of others as it did when she was having trouble learning the planets in fourth grade. She asked her participants to memorize a list of names, either by itself or with the help of the mnemonic “My Black Cat Luna Loves Tuna And Being In the Sun.” Those given the mnemonic performed 88 percent better, she found.

Other projects studied studies of erosion, viscosity, volcanoes, bridge design, basketball shots, and whether hand sanitizers prevented mold growth on bread.

The science fair is coordinated by a steering committee, led by Pierce Downer Principal Justin Sisul, Fairmount Principal Tony Coglianese, Highland Principal Dr. Judy Kmak and Pierce Downer/Hillcrest Assistant Principal Brent Borchelt.

- Courtesy of Downers Grove Grade School District 58

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Susan Carroll January 30, 2013 at 03:43 PM
It's a shame a wonderful story about our children and schools gets pushed down to the middle of the sidebar while a week-old story about a chicken ordinance that has already been voted on continues to be put at the top of the page. It's stories like this that make me happy I chose Downers Grove as a town to raise my children; not only that, it also shows how our tax dollars are being used.
Fred Gusel January 30, 2013 at 09:27 PM
Congrats to Audrey Gusel and Melissa Manzo as well as all the students who particpated and had a wonderful learning experience! - Fred Gusel - I know I am biased ;o)

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